Locus Standi in Public Interest Litigation

Oct 20, 2020

The literal translation of the Latin words ‘Locus Standi’ is ‘a place to stand’. In legal terminology, the word locus standi refers to the right of a person to bring forth action in the court. Public interest litigation is litigation that has not been instituted for a private interest. In the words of Justice PN Bhagwati, the Public Interest Litigation is stated as “Where a person has suffered a legal injury due to violation of any constitutional or legal right or due to legal class or legal injury of any person without violation of constitutional or legal provision or due to the burden of any legal or wrong or legal injury or illegal burden, such person is determined to be due to poverty, helplessness or disability or socially or economically deprived unable to approach the court for relief, any member of the public may file an application for proper instruction, order or writ in the High Court under Article 226 and in case the violation of the fundamental rights of such persons or class of persons In making the determination, this Article under Article 32 sought judicial redress for legal wrong or legal injury to determine such person or class of persons. 

In the case of PUDR v Union of India In 1982 the court recognized that a third party might file a petition either through letter or such means for matters where another party’s fundamental rights had been violated. As per the original procedure that existed only aggrieved parties enjoyed the right to seek redressal under Article 32. Thus, in the rule of locus standi, there has been relaxation, and an individual with bonafide interest for the public shall have locus standi to bring an action in the court for fundamental rights violation.

In the case of Indian Banks’ Association, Bombay and ors v. M/s Devkala Consultancy Service and Ors, the apex court held that even a private interest case might be converted to public interest litigation when such private interest violated has repercussions on the public also and such shall be done in furtherance of the interest of the public. In the case of Guruvayur Devaswom Managing Commit. And Anr. V. C.K. Rajan and Ors, the court observed that “Public interest litigation has come up for stay and its requirement cannot be overstated. The courts developed a jurisdiction of compassion. Procedural ownership was to address concerns related to the lack of rights. The rule of locus standi was thin. Court becomes an active participant in justice delivery in place of the justiceless and controversial judiciary.”

A PIL, therefore, can be filed under Article 32 in the Supreme Court and Article 226 in the High Court in the writ jurisdiction. The writ jurisdiction is categorized into five which are writs of Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Quo-warranto, Certiorari and Prohibition. Originally there are three main pre-condition for filing PIL, which is first there must be a personal injury. Secondly, there must be causation with respect to the injury and complaint made; thirdly such complaints must be characterized by redress ability.

As presently any person could file public interest litigation and the court has been inclusive and welcoming about the same in the following precedents.

  • Peoples Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India -Any person on behalf of the economically and socially disadvantaged class of people could approach the court for relief.

Judge Transfer Case: Any member of the public can file public interest litigation for public injury arising out of violation of legal rights so as to obtain judicial redress.

  • MC Mehta V. Union of India: “The petitioner is however not entitled to transfer an opposition owner to the court to enforce the statutory provisions, as he is a person interested in protecting the lives of the people who use the Ganges water: not only Among these, the court has considered cases of enthusiastic individuals in the case of Parmanand Katara v. Union of India, Shriram Food and Fertilizer.
  • In Environment Legal Action V. Union of India, the court entertained the petition from a voluntary environmental organization.

The important subjects or the subjects that are dealt commonly in Public Interest Litigation are as follows, exploitation of workers, access to a speedy trial, farmer’s rights, the welfare of children, exploitation of women, environmental issues, neglect of duty by police officers and such.

Thus, the expanded jurisdiction of the locus standi in respect of public interest litigation has enabled the Supreme Court to become the saviour of human rights on several occasions. The normal notion against justice is that the judiciary delays justice. Still, with PIL’s expanded locus standi, matters of utmost importance and having a grave impact are dealt expeditiously by the Supreme Court instilling the faith in the judiciary that seems to waver in the general public.